A plan to reduce District 15’s budget deficit by increasing class sizes garnered the support of the school board but brought concerned comments from some parents in attendance.
has been grappling with how to close a projected $9.6 million budget deficit for the 2012-2013 school year. School officials scaled back their first plan – – .
The final proposal presented by Superintendent Scott Thompson to the board did not balance the budget. Rather, Thompson proposed a little more than $6 million in cuts, with the remaining $3.6 million deficit being covered with reserves.
Thompson’s final proposal still includes an increase in average class size and the elimination of full-time staff positions. The Wednesday school board meeting was moved into the gym at Walter R. Sundling Junior High to accommodate the large crowd in attendance.
“These actions come with deep emotional angst. Individuals losing their income, benefits and professional status is no light matter. We have struggled with this and have never forgotten it,” Thompson said. “The recommendations being brought to you tonight were created in an attempt to impact students in the least possible manner.”
The district would strictly adhere to class size targets, resulting in the elimination of 13 full-time staff members for a savings of $715,000. In the past, if a school was on the border of needing another teacher, the district would round up and add the staff member. Under the new policy, the district would round down.
The district also would increase class sizes for kindergarten to sixth grade to 26 while class sizes for seventh and eighth grade would rise on average to 28 to save another $715,000.
The district is in the midst of contract negotiations with its teacher’s union. Thompson said that depending on how those negotiations go, several of the planned cuts could be reinstated.
Inverness resident Claire Miller said because the class size figures were averages, District 15 could have some classes in the mid-30s, adding that class sizes do make a difference in the quality of education a child receives.
“I moved from the city to the suburbs to have great schools,” she said. “Is this what we think is excellent? I don’t think so. I don’t think having children in a class of 31 children is excellent.”
However, several residents who spoke focused not on the proposed cuts, but on teacher salaries and pension costs.
“The reason we are here today is because our finances are out of balance. Expenditures are currently exceeding revenues at an alarming pace,” Palatine resident Jennifer Zold said. “Make no mistake the rate and rise of expenditures is the root of the great divide in our budget.”
The district also would eliminate four other positions related to art, music and PE staff for a savings of $220,000. Also, all program assistants in regular education classrooms would be converted to part-time, saving $1.258 million.
Palatine Patch has uploaded Thompson’s entire presentation, and it is attached to this story.
“This doesn’t solve our problem,” Thompson said. “It’s the first step in getting us to a solution. So we’re going to need to find other ways to save money to fix the structural deficit.”
Without the budget cuts Thompson is proposing, the budget deficit would erode district reserves from about $49 million to about $3.8 million by 2016. Thompson said with the cuts he is proposing the district’s reserves in 2016 only fall to $28 million.
“Using the fund balance is OK, if we have a long-term plan to fix the structural deficit,” school board member Manjula Sriram said. Overall, school board members were supportive of the plan.
The public will have another month to vote on the plan before the school board will vote on it.